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Top 5 Things I Love About David Levithan October 7, 2014

Posted by ccbooks in Analysis.
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This is a Top 5 Things post that I’ll write on my own, as Ana doesn’t share my love of David Levithan’s books. Part of this is certainly literary taste: Ana is enamored of plot and many of Levithan’s books, especially the early ones, focus more on characterization and atmosphere than action. It may also be differing experiences of adolescence. In any case, here is my list:

5. Friendships that don’t become romantic

This is not to imply that Levithan isn’t a great writer of romance. He’s written some of my favorite couples in all of YA literature (Nick and Norah, Noah and Paul). But he’s also brilliant at writing about friendship and one of my favorite chapters is the one in The Realm of Possibility about Lily and Jed who love each other, but are not ‘in love.’

4. Variations on high school cliches

Levithan’s first book Boy meets Boy, intentionally turned the usual high school tropes on their heads. Published in 2003, a year before Massachusetts, it was a bit of an outlier for it’s time. The football quarterback is also the homecoming queen for example. But even in books set closer to our own experience, such as The Realm of Possibility or Dash & Lily’s Book of Dares, Levithan and his co-writer Rachel Cohn manage to make the stock characters of rich girl, jock, or stoner into individuals.

3. Nuanced family relationships

My favorite Levithan book just might be Are We There Yet?, the story of two brothers on a trip to Italy. Part of this is because there are so many references to my own childhood favorites (such as E.L. Konigsburg) but mostly it’s the fantastic depiction of how you can share so much with a sibling and yet still have so much to learn about them. My one quibble with this book is that Julia is a bit of a MPDG but I have met people like her while staying in hostels so I will mostly let it slide. And (SPOILER) neither brother ends up with her at the end, which is exactly as it should be.

2. Girls I can identify with

I can remember reading The Realm of Possibility as a teen and thinking “Hey, she sounds like me” multiple times. This rarely happened in depictions of teen culture for me and is one reason why I was never particularly into John Hughes movies or 10 Things I Hate About You.  Levithan’s characters may have different tastes in music (Norah) or live in different places (Lily) but they were almost always kindred spirits.

1. Unfailing optimism

The pervasive sense throughout all of Levithan’s books is hope. Whether they are dealing with struggles over sexuality, the aftermath of terrorism, personal journeys or political action, the characters look to the future with hope and optimism.


One last bonus–in addition to being a writer, Levithan is also an EDITOR for Scholastic! Some of the writers he works with are my very favorites in YA, including Libba Bray and Maggie Stiefvater.


Imitating Eric Carle October 7, 2014

Posted by ccbooks in Nerd Line.
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When I tell people I’m a freelance artist, they always ask “What kind?” in a voice that makes it clear they are thinking about visual art. I’m a puppeteer, so all my art is visual, but I don’t do a lot of painting or collage or art like that. So whenever Betsy Bird over at the blog A Fuse #8 Production breaks out one of her art challenges, I try my best to create something, just to mix things up a little.

For her latest, Re-Potterfy Harry Potter, I decided to play around a little with Eric Carle’s style of illustration. I own a book by Carle where he details his artistic process accompanied by great clear photos of how he creates each illustration. Using that and a bunch of his books for reference, I painted a bunch of tissue papers:


Then I sketched out the pieces of the illustration on tracing paper and used them to cut out the various parts I needed. I used the train in one of Carle’s earliest books 1, 2, 3 to the zoo as my model for the Hogwarts Express and it was complicated. 


But in the end, I was pretty happy with the results. I like collage, as it’s a little more forgiving of my lack of formal training than other media and I think Carle’s bright style matches the tone of the first Harry Potter book well. Maybe someday I’ll make some other Potter illustrations just to see how they turn out.